Two months. It is the deadline, in principle non-extendable, that the European Commission set to mediate the “structured dialogue” between the PSOE and the PP that is seeking in Brussels a way out of the long blockade of the General Council of the Judiciary. After two meetings, progress is minimal, as recognized by the parties. And the calendar moves forward. The intermediary, Commissioner Didier Reynders, will leave his position at the end of March. But the PP does not seem to care and seeks to lengthen the process and impose a broad reform that goes beyond European criteria.

“If Commissioner Reynders finishes his term, I am convinced that the president, Ursula von der Leyen, will appoint another commissioner to fill the position,” PP negotiator Esteban González Pons said last Monday, after admitting the lack of progress in the second meeting with the representative of the PSOE, the Minister of the Presidency and Justice, Félix Bolaños. An assertion that opens the door for the negotiation to continue ‘sine die’, while European elections are called next June.

The phrase did not go unnoticed in the PSOE, where they believe that the Deputy Secretary of Institutional Affairs was wrong by publicly opening the door to prolonging the negotiation beyond what was stipulated. The socialists remember that it was Alberto Núñez Feijóo himself who proposed the mediation of Brussels and the role of Reynders. And the European Commission is the one that set the deadlines and the framework for the negotiations.

Brussels took a few weeks to analyze the request that came from the PP. Finally, he accepted the unprecedented proposal and established a maximum period of two months for the umpteenth attempt to close the crisis in the Judiciary to bear fruit after years of warnings, threats, and failed attempts from the community capital. What the European Commission is not considering is extending that period, as Pons assumed. “It is planned for two months maximum,” say sources from the community government.

The two months were, in fact, not a trivial choice. Reynders agreed to sit down with PSOE and PP at the end of January, when he already knew that his mandate had an expiration date (precisely the end of March or beginning of April, that is, the two months that he has given). The Belgian politician will then formally begin his campaign to become the general secretary of the Council of Europe and will have to leave his powers as Commissioner for Justice.

But timing is not the main problem in conversations, but the a priori irreconcilable starting points. Pons, who boasts of being a great connoisseur of the always complicated twists and turns of European politics, has Feijóo’s utmost confidence. And he expressed before the microphones that “the negotiating package has different parts, one of them is the renewal [del Consejo] and another is the change of model” of election of its members. And he added: “There is nothing consensual here until everything is consensual.”

The PP wants to agree on a whole package

Outside the cameras, in the PP they add that their idea is to propose a renewal of the CGPJ in parallel not only to design a new system for appointing members, but also to a broad package of reforms that would go from the Constitutional Court to the Attorney General’s Office. State, through regulating the so-called “revolving doors” back and forth between Justice and politics.

“Everything is a package,” a source from the PP leadership tells And that “pack” is indivisible. So much so that the renewal of the CGPJ and the legal reform that the right wants should be processed at the same time in Congress. And the legal changes, “as the first item on the agenda,” according to the same source, who joked about taking the talks beyond what was set by the Commission: “We are already quite late.”

The problem, as the PSOE points out, is that the intermediation of the European Commission is based on the report on the rule of law that the Community Executive publishes each year, and to which the organization’s communications regularly refer. And said report does not mention the Constitutional Court, the Attorney General’s Office or other issues but rather establishes the renewal of the CGPJ as “urgent” and establishes that “immediately afterwards” a reform in line with European standards must be “initiated” (i.e. in which more weight is given to the judicial career within the election of its governing body).

In the last report published, in July of last year, Brussels congratulated itself on the partial renewal of the guarantee court, agreed upon by Pablo Casado when he was at the head of the PP, and which led to former minister Juan Carlos Campo accessing the Constitutional Court. A serious danger to democracy and the rule of law, as Feijóo now denounces.

Nor has Reynders done so in his many statements about the delicate situation of the Judiciary in Spain. Not even when he traveled to Spain to meet with each of the parties, separately, as well as with trade organizations and associations.

For the PP, that renewal (which had the support of its own party) was the straw that broke the camel’s back of the “institutional control” carried out by the Government, in its opinion. It was crossing all the red lines,” they point out from the leadership, although in Congress only Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo rebelled against the agreement of his then leader.

In Feijóo’s party they are playing with the trick that Pedro Sánchez will fulfill the commitment he made not to change the parliamentary majority of two thirds of both legislative chambers to appoint members of the Judiciary. A movement that the first coalition government put on the table in the face of the PP blockade, but that pressure from Europe forced it to be discarded.

What Reynders did say in a statement after the first meeting of the “structured dialogue”, held on January 31, is what he has been affirming for years: first, unblock the CGPJ; and “immediately thereafter”, address the reform of the appointment system. And nothing more.

In Pedro Sánchez’s party they recognize that the talks “are not going as well” as they would like and they fear that the PP will return to a strategy of breaking the possibility of an agreement. “This is not a time for excuses or delays,” Bolaños said Monday in Brussels.

Pons and Bolaños have arranged to meet again in the community capital in the first half of March. But expectations are not the best. “We have made little progress,” Pons said Monday. “It’s not a question of deadline,” he added. “You have to go slowly and you have to do things well,” he concluded.

Another threat of resignation in the CGPJ

And while the PP speeds up the deadlines, the Judiciary continues in an increasingly complicated situation. Its president, Vicente Guilarte, has already proposed an alternative to achieve an agreement between the two parties that must be understood to renew the body: withdraw from the Council the powers to appoint judges of the Supreme Court and other judicial bodies. The court that is at the top of the Spanish system already has 25 unfilled magistrate positions.

Guilarte put his position on the table this week. The acting president of the CGPJ threatened to resign if the dialogue between the PSOE and the PP does not conclude with an agreement. Guilarte is the third president that the governing body of judges has had in this term.

The original, Carlos Lesmes, already resigned precisely to pressure the parties in their negotiations, without any success. It was October 10, 2022. Just a few days later he derailed at the last second an agreement that, according to both parties, was already practically closed. Feijóo got dizzy when he saw the reaction of his people to the reform of the crimes of sedition and embezzlement. His successor, Rafael Mozo, then assumed the position, which he had to leave in June 2023 due to retirement.

In the PP they assure that “they are not going to get up from the negotiation table.” Another indicator that Feijóo is only compensated by a pact with the PSOE if he achieves each and every one of his objectives. If not, the Judiciary will continue to be bogged down by the impossibility of renewing it without the help of a right that has demonstrated through facts that the current situation is no worse than an agreement with Pedro Sánchez.


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